Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Benny Lava: The Greatest Indian Song of All Time

Many many thanks to Sulaiman Choudhury for bringing the following video to our attention. Watch it, and you will want a Benny Lava T-Shirt.

Just to reiterate what is said in the video, this is not a translation, this is just what Buffalax thought the Tamil dude was saying in the song.


The U.S. Treating Pakistan Like A Parent Would A Heroin-Addicted Teenage Son

This story in the WP is truly brilliant. Apparently the U.S. supplied the Pakistan army with these high-powered, $9000-a-pair night vision goggles to track border crossings from Pakistan to Afghanistan and vice versa. The problem? They take them away for two weeks at a time every three months to make sure they're all still there and haven't been sold off. I'll give you three guesses as to what Taliban types do in those two weeks.
Pakistan was allowed to purchase about 300 from a U.S. contractor, and the rest -- about 1,300 pairs of goggles valued at $6.4 million -- were provided without charge by the Defense and State departments, Kronstadt said. A small number were also provided to Pakistan by U.S. intelligence agencies, said U.S. officials and independent experts.

The Pentagon's monitoring is conducted under a special program -- EUM, or Enhanced End-Use Monitoring -- that allows U.S. officials in Pakistan to check all the serial numbers every three months.

To Pakistani soldiers, giving up the goggles meant that, for up to eight weeks each year, they had to fight blind against an adversary who quickly caught on to the troops' vulnerability and exploited it, said two Pakistani government officials familiar with the issue. The policy was also considered insulting.


To be fair, can you really blame them? First of all, pretty much all of the U.S. believes - quite rightly, I may add - that major portions of our military and intelligence services are not committed to the fight against the Taliban and their buddies. Secondly, we have been known to sell military equipment for personal gain in the past, so it's not as if this is coming out of nowhere. Still hilarious though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Our War Or Their War?

In a post I wrote a couple of days ago, I lamented the fact that many Pakistanis think the war we are fighting against militancy in NWFP and Fata is America's war, not ours. As I said, I think this view is wrong-headed, and that these militants present a far graver threat to us than the U.S. Here are two differing perspectives on exactly whose war it is that we are fighting. One is a former head honcho of the ISI and MI from the 80s, the other is a political science professor at LUMS. I'll let you figure out which is which.
The war our security forces are fighting is our war, a war for the future of Pakistan. The alternative of allowing mini religious fiefdoms would be self-destructive. This message has been lost to the public and the politicians due to the strong anti-Musharraf sentiment in the country, and because divisions within the regime are persistently holding the government back from effectively responding to the threat. The state is already late with too little in its hands to counter growing Talibanisation that presents a grave threat to national security.
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But about one thing I have no doubt in my mind that the troops who are fighting there for the last four years are not fighting this as their war. They believe like I believe that we’ve been pushed into this war, fighting against out own people. And that becomes for the soldier such a huge challenge — fighting against your own people, civilians, citizens, women, children...the moment you pick up weapons against your own people, it is not the morale that counts so much. It is your commitment to that fight, it is your reluctance to fire. Even though you can fire and kill people, you don’t want to.

I May Not Know Anything About Bollywood Films...

...but what I can safely say is that someone, somewhere, has come up with a story like this before:

A HINDU-MUSLIM love affair. A rich, well-connected patriarch. A high-handed police inquiry. And finally, a dead man on the railroad tracks.

For over a month, Calcutta has been gripped by the story of Rizwanur Rahman and Priyanka Todi: he a young, striving Muslim, she a fabulously wealthy Hindu, both daring to marry despite her family’s archresistance and, in the end, paying a terrible price. On a Friday in September, barely a month into their marriage, the body of Mr. Rahman, 29, turned up on the railroad tracks, his head mangled almost beyond recognition; whether it was murder or suicide remains in dispute. Ms. Todi, 23, shut herself off from the media glare and has said nothing publicly since.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Carnage In Karachi II

As soon as I read about the massive bombing in Karachi last week, my mind went back to one of AKS' more inane quotes. AKS, regular readers will recall, mused on the Lal Masjid fiasco in the summer, and wondered aloud whether it really would have been that bad if the militants had a small nuclear weapon and used it during their standoff against security forces. No, Kabir is not a genocidal maniac. His point was this: the more violent extremists in Pakistan become, the more they stand to lose support from (a) the fence-sitters and (b) those who believe terrorism is not a problem or, at the very least, not Pakistan's problem. This weaning off of support for extremism is crucial, and so if they did use a nuclear device in the middle of Islamabad, it would force almost all Pakistanis to stand in opposition to these militants, and that would be that.

I disagreed. If a nuclear device was used by radical clerics and their militant buddies in the middle of Islamabad, I argued, only a few supporters/sympathizers would change their opinion on the matter. Instead, those supporters would submit one or more of the following claims: (a) the Lal Masjid clerics/militants were in fact CIA agents; (b) the Lal Masjid clerics/militants were in fact RAW agents; (c) the Lal Masjid clerics/militants had no other choice in the face of such provocation and injustice; (d) the Lal Masjid clerics/militants were only fighting fire with fire, and responsibility for the explosion of the nuclear device ultimately would rest with Musharraf, his security forces and, quite naturally, the U.S. In other words, excuses would be made, blame would be evaded and if anything, people would find in such a tragedy only reaffirming evidence for their beliefs: if the Americans would just leave Afghanistan, if Musharraf were to just stop fighting America's war, if the English-speaking liberati would just shut the fuck up, then there'd be no nuclear explosion in Islamabad. The fault for the hypothetical nuclear explostion, in other words, would not lie with the militants but with the forces they were fighting.
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I have long argued that the two principal fissures in Pakistani politics are (a) secular-progressives vs. religous-Sharias; and (b) strong center advocates vs. provincial rights advocates [older readers will know, and newer readers should know, I am in the first camp on (a) and second camp on (b)]. Issues such as democracy, tax rates and land reform, while important, are procedural. They refer to how the state should run. The issues I point to in the first sentence of this paragraph, however, are more fundamental - they refer to what the state is. Indeed, this assertion is borne out by historical events. While struggles for democracy - including the current one set off by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry's firing last March - and disputes over leftist/rightist economy policy have been sporadic and intermittent in our country's history, the tension vis-a-vis the role of Islam in the state and the extent of provincial rights have manifested themselves continually almost since the day of independence.

These matters have, over the last few years, come to a head. Though the center-province issue is as important, if not more so, than the secular/religous dispensation of the state, I will concentrate on the latter here. It is my contention that because of their excessively Islamic persuasions, the Pakistani public, media, political elite and intelligence services have all played their part in allowing, even facilitating, militant acitivity in our country. The result is there for all to see.

On prevailing in a guerilla war, Mao famously said that you have to drain the sea to catch the fish. He understood perfectly well - one of the few things he understood perfectly well - that insurgents/guerillas stand no chance of winning if the population around them does not want them to win. Separate the population - physically or ideologically - from the guerillas in their midst, and catching the fish suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. Though there are important differences between terrorism and guerilla warfare - the primary one being the regularity with which attacks are launched - one significant similarity is the fact that no asymmetrical militant activity can succeed without support from a local population. It simply cannot happen.

Such support for the Taliban, al-Qaeda and various other militant organizations has been more than forthcoming in Pakistan for a while now. Many in our intelligence services consider themselves Muslims first, Pakistanis second. The Friday Times for long has referred to the ISI as the Invisible Soldiers of Islam, only half-jokingly. Our media and public, too, extend extraordinary levels of sympathy for militants by either obfuscating the issue at hand - "Who trained them in the 80s?" "Guantanamo Bay!" "Iraq!" - or by somehow making the militants innocent victims in a grand and vast conspiracy. These theories render militants' activity as reaction to events, and grants them little agency. Never mind that the same bastards were blowing up girls' schools years before the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Never mind that they have always threatened barbers and video shop owners with death and destruction. Never mind that they espouse a violent and repressive logic of life - if one can call it that. No, if the militants are up to no good - and that's a big if, mind you - it's all America's (or someone else's) fault.

While the media and public are exceedingly culpable in their acquiesence of terrorism on Pakistani soil, our political elite and intelligence agencies deserve far more of the blame. Even before she boarded a plane back to Karachi, Benazir wrote a letter to Musharraf, asking to investigate certain officials in power if something were to happen to her. Educated guesswork and typical Pakistani speculation has turned up some interesting names. In particular Ejaz Shah, head of Intelligence Bureau - one of Pakistan's three intelligence agencies - keeps coming up. Others include the charming Chaudhry cousins and Ejaz-ul-Haq, son of my good man Zia. Did these people have something to do with the suicide attacks in Karachi? At present there is no way of knowing. We obviously need more information from the investigation of the entire affair, which is not off to the brightest of starts what with the man who allegedly tortured Zardari in charge of it and all.

The point to be made is that even if these people were not directly involved in the attacks, no one can argue they would have been terribly upset if the attacks had succeeded in killing Benazir. For them, Pakistan is an Islamic state, not a Muslim one, and anyone arguing otherwise is wrong. Anyone powerful arguing otherwise is both wrong and dangerous. And if the events of last week have proven anything, it's that Benazir is a powerful, powerful woman. No one else in Pakistan can snap their fingers and have hundreds of thousands of people turn out on the street. No one. Add to that the fact that she is supported mightily by the West for a variety of reasons and you have perhaps a woman more powerful than almost everyone in power. She is a threat to both their instrumental interests and their ideological ones. They simply will not stand for a moderate woman leading a policy of engagement with the rest of the world.
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Whether or not it was the attempt on Benazir's life that caused our government to leap to action, leap to action it has certainly done. A report in the New Statesman a couple of days ago said that there is to be massive military offensive in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan in the coming days. In response to another explosion that led to the death of 30 security personnel on Thursday, the government today launched attacks around Swat. Their target in this particular battle is Maulana Fazlullah, the same jackass who spread rumours from his radio broadcast that the polio vaccination drive in the Northern areas was in fact a nefarious Western plot to render Muslim nations impotent. Of course, that led to attacks on innocent aid workers, who decided it was not worth the trouble, which quite naturally led to greater incidences of polio in the region. The same jackass has taken to inciting calls for jihad against Pakistani security forces and police. Whether this is a short term tactical shift or a longer term strategic shift remains to be seen. For now at least, appeasement isn't on the cards. And that can only be a good thing.

The aggressive tackling of militants in our cities and tribal regions will, of course, not please many. An astonishingly high proportion of Pakistanis believe we are fighting America's war. They refuse to see, or simply cannot see, that these militants hurt Pakistan infinitely more than they can ever hurt the U.S. People claim that if we were to leave them alone, let them be and completely withdraw from the tribal regions, they would leave us alone. Never mind any notions of sovereignty or writ of the state. Never mind the fact that they threaten the security of the Pakistani state and its nationals. Never mind the fact that they are already in our cities, and have been for years now. Nope - for the blinkered public, we leave them alone, and everyone will live happily ever after. Imran Khan, in a breathtakingly offensive piece in which he wrote essentially that Benazir had it coming, said as much: leave them alone, dump the alliance with the U.S., and everything will be just fine. All one can say is: let's hope Imran Khan never actually amounts to anything. For the sake of Pakistan, let's really hope Imran Khan never actually amounts to anything.
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The attacks on the PPP did more than just kill one hundred and forty people. They have completely shaken up the political status quo in Pakistan today. As Ahmed Rashid wrote, what was already a tentative alliance between Musharraf and Benazir has just gotten more fragile. With BB making accusations of people in Musharraf's government "abusing their power," with PPP and PML-Q legislators at each others' throats on national television, with Musharraf forced to placate the right wing of the Q-League with assurances that are the verbal equivalent of lovingly petting a cat, and with the MMA in disarry, all bets are well and truly off. No one knows the answer to any of the following questions:

1. Now that Benazir is back in the country, has shown her political clout on the street and has shown her importance to the Pakistani media insofar as the fight against terrorism is concerned, how willing will she be to keep within the contours of the alliance with Musharraf?

2. Will Nawaz Sharif come back? If yes, when?

3. Will Musharraf ditch the PPP, rig the elections for the Q-League, and take his chances that the judiciary and the public will be pliant? Alternatively, will he ditch the Q-League, reaffirm his support to the PPP, and hope that Benazir doesn't get too uppity? Or will he opt for a combination of the two?

4. Do the "moderate, democratic forces" that Benazir continues to refer to mean (a) the PPP, the MQM and a bunch of smaller nationalist parties; (b) a grand alliance between the PPP and the PML-N; or (c) none of the above?

Furthermore, questions abound on non-party politics issues too, such as:

1. Will the October 18 bombings help reduce support for terrorism in Pakistan? In other words, is Ali Kabir right?

2. In the face of persistent threats to her life, and with the workings of security agencies increasingly coming into question, will Benazir actually make it to the elections in one piece?

3. Will Benazir's exhortations against madrassas, Ejaz Shah, and the ISI result in any tangible dividends?
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Readers, I cannot express exactly how much the Taliban, al-Qaeda and all their local affiliates piss me off. I cannot express how much the actions and words of their enablers in the public, media and government piss me off. I cannot express the gravity of the danger these people present to our country, and just how very great the stakes are. What I can express is the following: we need a leadership that understands the threat, that does not dismiss it casually, and that wants to tackle it head-on, both militarily and politically. There are, unfortunately, too few candidates that fit that description. Benazir, for all her faults - and there are many - is one that does. I implore you: get behind her and her party. They are our best shot.

Friday, October 26, 2007

'Rage Boy' and other Photogenic Fundies

For those of you who don’t know, 'Rage Boy' is the alter ego of an otherwise mild mannered ex Kashmiri militant called Shakeel Bhat. Mr. Bhat has acquired the status of a cult figure on the internet, evidenced by the fact that you can actually obtain mouse pads, coffee mugs and T-Shirts with Rage Boy's rage face on them. Rage Boy's fame stems from his efforts to merrily validate stereotypes about Muslims by making the face below:


Making that face, Rage Boy has appeared at least a dozen times in various 'defence of Islam' themed protests, including the ones against the Indian Army, Israel, the Danish cartoons, the Pope's comment about Islam and Salman Rushdie. Snappedshot.com actually compiled a complete gallery of all the protests this guy has stuck his face into. I have pasted some of their pictures below:


Pictured here protesting the Pope, asking idiotically why Muslims have a bad reputation.



Pictured here with different outfit and hairdo (and facial variant), protesting the Jewish Lobby and Israel with regard to Al Aqsa.




Pictured here, screaming over a copy of the Holy Quran,



And here, getting his rage on with respect to the danish cartoons.

What is undeniably entertaining about Mr Bhat is twofold:
1. Mr Bhat's face itself
2. The fact that this is his stock face (much like "Blue Steel" from Zoolander).It is the sheer disingenuousness of pretending to be that intensely pissed off for the cameras on so many occasions that makes it brilliant. Of course, it is also pissing off that the press is so keen for pictures of angry Muslims that they repeatedly and quite shamelessly go back to this idiot.

I had initially thought (and posted) that Rage Boy had made the cover of Newsweek as shown in the photograph below, which is still strangely boy band like in its composition. However RH Potfry very kindly informed me that in fact it is not Rage Boy, but rather someone who looks like him and who is coincidentally in a similiar state of rage.


There are however two sides to this web cult, and the Rage Boy web content inevitably strays into areas which are incredibly bigoted. Take for example the satirical Rage Boy agony aunt column, which is titled "Ask Islamic Rage Boy".


I have pasted an excerpt from the question asked:

"Dear Islamic Rage Boy,I am a faithful Wahhabist living in the satanic pit of America and have recently found it necessary to burn my wife at the stake for her insolence. My problem is threefold. First, the cost of gasoline has risen to such a price that it almost makes me question my sentence of a “painful, fiery death.”


Here was the response given:

"Dear Pyrotechnically-challenged,
Whoa. Slow down my friend. You have asked me many questions, but you have left out a great deal of critical information. First of all, I cannot be sure that death by fire is the proper response to your wife’s infraction. Perhaps the situation merely calls for a severe beating of the uvula or a vigorous genital caning. Please be more specific next time. However, for the sake of argument we must err on the side of severity. Let’s just say that your wife exposed her left temple while in public and thus is deserving of a flame-laden, blistering death. "


And so on. This is pretty much where Mr Bhat’s ignorant rage meets its Western counterpart and stops being funny. You can read about Rage Boys reaction to his fame here.

Surprisingly, whilst photographs of Rage Boy have validated negative stereotypes abroad, photographs of the Taliban have dismantled them. Pakistanis have always been aware (and have often joked) about the homoerotic strains in Pashtun society and tradition, but for foreigners, its news. The video below from Slate V relates to a whole bunch of fruity pictures that the Taliban and other Afghans took of themselves during a period where images of living creatures were banned. They are entirely endearing.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Twits, on Fox

Watch the video below. Make a note of all the incredibly stupid things that are said in it. Then go this post at Arif Rafiq's excellent blog and see if you got all of them. You may then comment your results in this post.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mike Huckabee, Idiot

Not much time so I just want to link to this column by David Brooks, singing the praises of Mike Huckabee. All I have to say is this: how funny would it be for America to go from a President who can't pronounce the word nuclear - odd, since he's had plenty of practice - to one who doesn't believe in evolution? I mean, this is a country with possibly the best higher education system in the world, a place where the world's brightest and smartest descend to - and their leaders don't believe in facts. It's not just the evolution thing. Think about how deluded some of these people are: George Bush thinks the U.S. is "kicking ass" in Iraq and almost the entire administration believes global warming is a hoax. Whatever happened to good old facts? I think this is one of the reasons for Hillary Clinton's massive lead in the polls - by listening to her talk, you know that her decision making is influenced greatly by - what's the word? - reality. You may not agree with the implications she draws from said reality but you cannot dispute she is someone who's meticulous and thorough when it comes to being well-informed. You can imagine her as the student who always had the best researched papers in college, as opposed to Bill, who you can imagine drunk or high on a Tuesday night, sauntering into his dorm room and beginning a 20 pager at 3 a.m., handing it in at 9 and getting an A.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Pakistan Found

The tragic bombing in Karachi has firmly placed the spotlight on Pakistan with the international press giving the country badly needed coverage. The Weekly Standard, (my favourite news'zine!) leads with "While Pakistan Burns," the cartoon on the cover is sad and funny; whereas Newsweek, in a moment of composed and restrained reportage, has decided to dedicate its most recent issue to "The most dangerous country in the world [which] isn't Iraq. Its Pakistan."
The Atlantic Monthly links its Paksitan story with an old, rather insightful, article on Suicide Bombings in Israel titled "The Logic of Suicide Terrorism."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Carnage In Karachi



Write-up tomorrow. Right now, I just have two words: fucking bastards.

Photo credits: Athar Hussain (Reuters); Shakil Adil (Associated Press); Lefteris Pitarakis (Associated Press).

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Benazir Arrives

Do not have time to submit my thoughts here, just wanted to update everyone about a brief incident.

My office is situated on the first floor overlooking Shahrahe-Faisal, on the Airport to Metropole side of the road. A Police Inspector, along with a few sepoys, visited our office a short while back and "informed" us that no one should be seen in the windows tomorrow, better yet, he said, just close the office, "for your own benefit." The facade of our office is mostly glass and we have about 75 people working so its jsut not possible to prevent people from 'appearing' in the windows. We have of course decided to shut the office tomorrow.

This thinly veiled threat by the police has taken me by surprise. I am certain that we, being a law firm, were singled out for such praise. Right above my office are 10 floors of appartments and we are surrounded by 10 to 12 floor buildings housing offices and apartments and this area is a fraction of a percentage of Shahrah-e-Faisal.

Everyone is really unsure about tomorrow and most people are talking about something bad happening; though I'm not so sure that this will be the case. The entire city has been flooded by posters of Benazir and invaded by PPP workers singing and dancing at every corner; then you have hordes of motorcyclists carrying PPP AND MQM flags together, not to mention a sudden influx in SUV's with armed guards affixed with MQM and / or ANP flags. Underneath this all, there is an air of tension and fright not felt in Karachi for years, dare I say since the days of Operation CleanUp. (May 12th may have been far bloodier but people weren't this tense and scared the day before.)

I'm attempting to go to Court tomorrow (have to) so wish me luck, shall update everyone about the goings ons once I get the chance. Its going to be a long night at work here.

Adios

Monday, October 15, 2007

Clockwise Or Anti-Clockwise? Right-Brained Or Left-Brained?

This is completely insane. If you see this woman moving clockwise you are apparently right-brained. If you see her moving anti-clockwise, you are left-brained. For the record, I could not, simply could not, understand how anyone would see her moving clockwise. But you can "trick" yourself by, well, I don't want to tell you. The point is you can make her look like she's going the opposite way from how you first saw her. In any event go check it out, it's fun!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

What, You Mean There Might Be MORE Talent Coming To Barcelona?

Yes, it appears it might be a possibility. Goddamn, can you imagine a 20 year-old Fabregas joining his old club? I can certainly see why Barca would want to do this; clearly they don't have enough talent yet. Jokes aside, Deco is 30 years old and Fabregas would presumably play the same role as him, so perhaps Barca are thinking of the future. Plus, Fabregas doesn't have Deco's "I'm a great player but am guaranteed to do something incredibly daft every 135 minutes or so" problem. By the way, if this does happen (and for the record, it's nowhere close to happening right now), the following Barcelona players would be under the age of 25:

Messi - 20
Fabregas - 20
Bojan Krkic -17
dos Santos - 18
Yaya Toure - 24
Iniesta - 23

In addition, guys like Roaldinho, Xavi and Eto'o are in the 26-27 range. This is a scary, scary team my friends. I think God is rewarding me for having supported the likes of Pakistan, Safin and the Sixers for so long. It's payback time, methinks.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Postsecret

I am pretty sure I came across this blog a couple of years ago. I completely forgot about it and found myself back there today following a couple of links. All it involves is people writing a secret on a homemade postcard and sending it to some guy, who then puts it up on the blog. Here's one:

Here's another:

Haunting, funny, cringe-worthy - it's all there. Go check it out.

China, Burma, And Western Hypocrisy

The last few weeks have seen a torrent of public condemnation, rightly so I might add, against the activites of the military junta in Burma. Pundits and public opinion across the world (or most of it anyway) have decried the bloodshed and gross human rights violations taking place in that country. For some reason, however, much of this anger is being diverted to one of Burma's primary backers: China. China should do more to stop the killing, they say. China needs to be a responsible player in international politics and not support brutal dictatorships, we are told. With power comes responsibility - don't you understand, you Oriental bastards? With power comes responsibility!

What's more, these criticisms of China are now taking on a threatening shape. Though it is highly unlikely to actually take place, there is considerable talk of an Olympic boycott to protest China's role - whatever that may be - in all of this. It's not like Beijing has enough problems on its plate with the Olympics, what with trying to halve the number of cars on the road because of pollution or trying to get Chinese to stop spitting and jumping lines. No, some in the West would like to boycott the Beijing Olympics to punish China. Let's sample some of these incredibly cogent and thoughtful opinions, shall we? Here's Christopher Hitchens, finishing off a typically pompous article with this paragraph:
Meanwhile, everybody is getting ready for the lovely time they will have at the Beijing Olympics. If there could be a single demand that would fuse almost all the human rights demands of the contemporary world into one, it would be the call to boycott or cancel this disgusting celebration.

Okay, then. Well, Mr. Roger Cohen, op-ed columnist for the New York Times, do you have anything substantive to add?
The nine months to the Olympics present a unique opportunity to shame China into shepherding Burmese reform, beginning with the release of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Hmm, I see. What about you, Mr. Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor of the Washington Post? How are you going to contribute to this lively discussion?
And here's something else I would do: Tell China that, as far as the United States is concerned, it can have its Olympic Games or it can have its regime in Burma. It can't have both.

Alright, mister. Maybe this is typical American bombast. Surely Europeans will be more circumspect and measured. Let's see. Would you like to tell us how you feel, Mr. Vice President of the European Parliament?
The Olympics is the only real lever we have to make China act. The civilized world must seriously consider shunning China by using the Beijing Olympics to send the clear message that such abuses of human rights are not acceptable.

Got it. Boycott Olympics, solve global human rights problems.

While I don't actually give a rat's ass about the Olympic games (doesn't everyone use steroids anyway?), I take strong exception to Western attitudes regarding this issue. For some reason, the West feels it needs to lecture the world on human rights abuses. I will ignore for the moment the complete irony of the fact that after Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and myriad cases of torture being exposed in American detention cells all around, Americans think they actually have a leg to stand on when it comes to this. What I want to focus on, instead, is the notion that the Chinese must be taught a lesson, must be embarassed and shamed on the international stage, must be brought around to see the light. Change your vile behavior or lose the prestige attached with hosting the the Olympic games - that's the message. Keep in mind it's not actually the Chinese doing this; it's friggin' Burma. But yet China is (a) held responsible, and (b) threatened with losing the Olympics. So I think it might be fun to, you know, apply this standard fairly. Let us construct a thought experiment where we're allowed to retroactively boycott Olympic games if the host of said Olympic games is either the sponsor or key ally of a state systematically killing, jailing and clamping down on its own citizens. Exciting, yes? Hmmm, I wonder which Olympics I should choose? Wait, I know! For the sake of incisiveness and casting light on hypocrisy, I'll go with 1984! Yay!

Los Angeles Olympic Games, 1984
Ah, 1984. One of the greatest years ever. First of all, in honor of George Orwell, the Deciders Of Time named the year after one of the best books of all time. More importantly, however, I had been alive for almost a year, thus treating the world to general bliss and harmony. The Olympics were to be held in Los Angeles, and since no one threatened a boycott, it must have meant that the U.S. had not been secretly sponsoring and aiding in the deaths, kidnappings and illegal incarceration of tens of thousands of people. Right?

Maybe, maybe not. It really depends on whether or not you know Nicaragua exists. The late 1970s and 1980s saw the Sandinista government and its supports subject to brutal attacks, assassinations, and indiscriminate violence by the Contras. Civilians were not spared. An estimated 30,000 people died. Did the U.S. have anything to do with this? Well, other than the Iran-Contra affair (where the U.S. illegally sold arms to Iran, then siphoned off the money to the rightist Contras), the millions of dollars of aid supplied, and CIA backing of the entire enterprise, not really. Certainly not enough to warrant a boycott of the Olympics. It was harmless stuff, really. If you don't believe me, here's an excerpt from a New York Times article in March 1985.
A new report by a private group asserts that over the last three years, rebels from one of the organizations seeking to overthrow the Nicaraguan Government have engaged in a pattern of attacks and atrocities against civilian targets...the findings are similar to those in a report issued today in Washington by Americas Watch, a private, non-political organization that monitors human rights in the Western Hemisphere.

[...]


One of the witnesses, who was quoted in the report and later was questioned by The Times, described an early morning attack that he said came as he was on his way to pick coffee at a cooperative farm north of here.

Along with about 30 other volunteers, the witness, Santos Roger Briones, 16 years old, said he was was traveling in a Government-owned truck early last December. Nearly a kilometer ahead was a pickup truck carrying armed soldiers who had been supposed to protect the unarmed civilians from rebel attack.

Suddenly, Mr. Briones recalled, the dump truck was peppered with rifle, machine-gun, grenade and rocket fire. Many in the truck were wounded. Those who could jumped down and ran for their lives.

''I was hit in the foot and was covered with blood, so I lay on the ground, pretending to be dead,'' said Mr. Briones. He said he remained motionless as men in blue uniforms robbed him of his boots and wallet. ''Then the contras came and cut the throats of the people who stayed on the truck,'' he said, using a Spanish term for the rebels.

''When they were finished, they set the truck on fire,'' he added. ''From where I was lying, I could hear the groans and the screams of those who were being burned alive.''

[...]

Mrs. Barreda said she made no effort to hide her pro-Sandinista sympathies. She is a member of a Christian peasant self-help group that works closely with Sandinista groups and also belongs to the official Nicaraguan Women's Association; her husband fought with the Sandinistas during the insurrection in 1979 that ousted Gen. Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

''There were 50 or 60 of them in the group, and over five days they took turns raping me until each had had his chance,'' said Mrs. Barreda.

You see? Nothing wrong with a little covert aid that leads to the death of tens of thousands of people. The aid was covert, people. That means it doesn't really count. Plus, in the early 1980s, in places where the aid and military training actually did count, the body count was much lower. Like Honduras where instead of tens of thousands, only hundreds of political opponents, leftists and ordinary civilians were tortured and killed. All the U.S. did there was provide almost $80 million of military aid a year and extensive training and support of death squads by the CIA. The most notorious of these death squads was Batallion 316 which engaged in, well, I'll let a former member tell it:
He recalled how he nearly suffocated people with rubber masks, how he attached wires to their genitals and shocked them with electricity, how he tore off a man's testicles with a rope.

"We let them stay in their own excrement," he said, his gold front tooth reflecting the dim lamplight. "When they were very weak, we would take them to disappear."

[...]

"The Americans knew everything we were doing," Caballero said. "They saw what condition the victims were in -- their marks and bruises. They did not do anything."

Not nearly enough to warrant an Olympic boycott in my book. Not even when you combine it with the 75,000 or so deaths that took place in El Salvador (not to mention torture, beatings, kidnappings, all that good stuff) around the same time. So what if, according to declassified documents, the U.S. "ensured massive and continued support" of the government and its military forces? So what if the CIA funded, organized and trained death squads to go on their rampages? I say it all means nothing, at least if we're talking about the Olympics. Plus, it's not as if the U.S. got involved in any other countries in the region. It was just these three! Promise!
_________________________________________________________________________

Dear Westerners Who Think There Should Be A Boycott Of The Beijing Olympics Because Of Burma,

Please shut the fuck up. Thank you.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Will Someone Please Shoot Wasi Zafar?

Or at least fire him? For anyone who doesn't know, here are the particulars of why our esteemed law minister deserves to have his asshole bitten off by a reech.

Issue One:
Jackass Wasi Zafar and his inbred sons thrash a person at the Karachi airport in 2005, who objected to the minister's sons jumping the queue.

Issue Two
Shit Tart Wasi Zafar slaps waiter of a five-star hotel in Islamabad over a trivial matter.

Issue Three
After being informed of the 'long arm of the law' by an individual on the Voice of America Radio, Utter Jahil Wasi Zafar infamously threatens to put his long arm inside said individuals family.

Issue Four
An utterly beghairat Wasi Zafar presides as law minister during the course of Chief Justice fiasco.

Issue Five
Wasi Zafar reaches inside his kurta to scratch his balls on Geo in front of Hamid Mir and the whole planet. As this is particularly worthy of being seen, I have inserted the video below, for your viewing pleasure.




Issue Six
Makes complete fool of self and country on Youtube, evident not only from the video posted above, but more notably through the dubbed and friggin' REMIX versions of his scrotum rustling. So that we may all share in Wasi Zafar's shamelessness, I have posted the videos.

Here is the dubbed version:



Below is the remix edition which is simply titled:

"WASI ZAFAR plays music with his Thang (Pakistani Law)"

That is to say, that the filmi music you hear is allegedly being generated by the twanging of Wasi Zafars Instrument.





Irony is cliched in Pakistan.

Definition Of The Day

The reason I love Slate is because reading it allows me to learn the fact that Urban Dictionary has an entry for the term "Myspace Bisexual" defined thusly:
A girl who makes out with other slutty chicks at parties and then claims to be bisexual because it's trendy to say so and gets people's attention on myspace.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

This Article Should Come With An "R" Rating

A truly, truly sickening piece in the NYT on the use of rape as a weapon in war in Congo. As the article mentions, rape has always been a weapon in war - the Soviets, if my memory serves me correctly, used it pervasively in Germany at the end of World War II - but what's different about the phenomenon in Congo is the sheer brutality. For instance:
Honorata Barinjibanwa, an 18-year-old woman with high cheekbones and downcast eyes, said she was kidnapped from a village that the Rastas raided in April and kept as a sex slave until August. Most of that time she was tied to a tree, and she still has rope marks ringing her delicate neck. The men would untie her for a few hours each day to gang-rape her, she said.

And this:
“I still have pain and feel chills,” said Kasindi Wabulasa, a patient who was raped in February by five men. The men held an AK-47 rifle to her husband’s chest and made him watch, telling him that if he closed his eyes, they would shoot him. When they were finished, Ms. Wabulasa said, they shot him anyway.

Can you imagine having your wife raped in front of you? Can you imagine not even being allowed the "concession" to close your eyes? And most of all, can you imagine being raped by five men - five! - with your husband forced to watch, and then watching your husband be shot? Do experiences like this completely reorient the definition of what we commonly refer to as "pain"?

The REAL Aunty Disco Project

With apologies to Oba, I think this woman - protesting Musharraf's election - reserves all rights to the term ADP.


Photo credit: Getty images/Washington Post

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Winning Wars with Gay Love

The U.S. Military sure is serious about winning hearts and minds. And they're alrady winning awards for it:

Award: The Ig Nobel Peace Prize (The Ig Nobel committee celebrates unusual and imaginative areas of scientific research - its still proper science.

Winner: The US Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among enemy troops. The "gay bomb" when released behind enemy lines will make enemy troops "sexually irresistible" to each other.

For the Washington Posts's view on the Gay Bomb click here. A complete list of the Ig Nobel winners can be found here. Click here for the official Ig Nobel website.

Retroactive Quote Of The Day

Jordan is not my hero. None of my heroes wear suits.
As the world's biggest Allen Iverson fan, I have absolutely no idea how this quote escaped my attention. He apparently said this more than ten years ago, during his rookie season after, well, you remember, don't you? If not, here's a reminder:

Friday, October 05, 2007

Pakistan vs. South Africa First Test, Day 5

Hello, and welcome to Rs. 5’s coverage of day 5 of the first test between Pakistan and South Africa. (All times are local i.e. Chicago)

11:55 p.m: It’s amazing what one good innings can do for Pakistan fans. Younis played brilliantly yesterday and suddenly the PakPassion guys are starting threads like “We can win this” and “Are you excited/nervous?” Sorry guys, this is over, done, and dusted. Why am I blogging the day’s events then, you ask? Because (a) I have no class, TA section or workshop tomorrow and can therefore afford to sleep in; and (b) mind your own business.

12:01 a.m: Harris pulls up before his first delivery. Do you really need to partake in gamesmanship to get rid of Mohammad Asif? Just bowl the ball, man.

12:02 a.m: And we’re away. 276 more needed.

12:04 a.m: Kepler Wessels says Harris should come over the wicket to the left-hander (Asif) to exploit the rough outside the off-stump. Between Wessels, Zaheer Abbas and Waqar Younis, this series will shatter all records for “Most bleedingly obvious comments made by the commentators”.

12:06 a.m: Younis is really stretching forward here. First three balls by Nel and he’s gotten well forward and outside the line. Obviously trying to obviate the LBW or bowled from one that stays low.

12:11 a.m: My feed has disappeared. I swear if we’ve lost a wicket while this bullshit graphic is in my face, I’m going to be fucking pissed off.

12:13 a.m: My fiancĂ©e was telling me a story the other day, where a colleague of her friend’s got really frustrated at work when his computer crashed and he smashed his head into the screen. Guess who feels like doing that right now? Actually, I shouldn’t. I’m a grad student; I can barely afford my meals, let alone a new computer.

12:16 a.m: We’re back. Younis got to his hundred while we were away. Fuck streaming feeds, man. Seriously.

12:21 a.m: Nel bounces Asif, who fends it to short leg. Waqar tells us, “He couldn’t do nothing about that.” Couldn’t have said it better myself. Four down and in comes Misbah.

12:25 a.m: For a guy who doesn’t get it above 135, Nel sure does do a lot of talking and staring. I hereby proclaim that the ICC should promulgate a new law: you’re not allowed to sledge unless you can bowl faster than 143 km/h on average.

12:34 a.m: I must say that Zaheer Abbas is now on commentary. No doubt.

12:39 a.m: This is bullshit, man. I’m getting this goddamn buffering crap continually. I’m restarting my computer. Something better not happen while I’m restarting and logging into my illegal feed website.

12:47 a.m: The good news is that no one got out while I was away. The bad news is that this stupid feed is still acting up. That, and the fact that Zaheer Abbas is evidently still alive.

12:52 a.m: I may not be getting any cricket, but I am being treated to a fine selection of classical Indian music. Thanks guys, I'm not sleepy enough as it is.

12:54 a.m: Still no cricket, so let's start one of those meaningless and unresolvable debates that sports fan always seem to get into. Today's first selection: in ascending order of big teams, which opposition do Pakistani fans want to least lose a home test to? I would say the list goes something like: West Indies, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, England, and India. That sounds about right. If you're wondering why England is above Australia, it's because we expect to lose to Australia, so it's not a huge deal when we actually do.

1:28 a.m: Cricket! Dear God, it's cricket! Oh dear Lords of The Internet, You are too kind with Thy Blessings! I was just beginning to enjoy repeatedly clicking refresh on the Cricinfo live scorecard.

1:29 a.m: By the way, while I was away, Younis and Misbah played some scintillating cricket, adding about 30 runs in 15 overs. Hey man, I can't complain. That's 15 overs without a wicket (touchwood, mashallah, touchwood, mashallah).

1:32 a.m: A local Gillette ad. What a hideously unattractive man. Those marketing people at Gillette are really earning their money. Oh, well. At least he had a bad-ass bike (red in color by the way) and a nice looking babe hopping on to said bike at the end of the ad. Wonder where they're going.

1:34 a.m: Oooooooooooh. Younis survives a LBW shout from Steyn. Waqar thinks it was out. I'm not so sure but it was mighty, mighty close.

1:34 a.m: Ball stays low, Younis gets bowled. I'm in a real Cartman mood right now. As in "Screw you guys, I'm going home." No chance of a draw now.

1:38 a.m: Come on, rain! Come on!

1:39 a.m: What if Shoaib Malik blazes 169 off 171 balls and wins this game by tea? What if?

1:44 a.m: I'm kind of hungry. Unfortunately, no delivery man in his right mind will be out and about in Hyde Park at quarter to two in the morning. Do you know people have gotten mugged in broad daylight outside the friggin' UChicago gym? As soon as I can afford it, I'm moving the hell out of here. River North is nice, yes? As for my hunger, here I come Mr. Vending Machine! (Please Malik and Misbah, don't get out while I'm gone).

1:51 a.m: The U.S. should change its slogan to "America: Where $1.60 will get you 680 calories, no questions asked".

1:56 a.m: Where the hell is Ntini?

1:58 a.m: On cue, Jackman notices he's loosening up. Waqar wonders where he's been. I think I should apply for a job as a commentator and say on my resume "I notice everything Waqar does, except two minutes earlier. I can also speak the goddamn language."

2:02 a.m: Misbah and Malik are blocking everything. This is the best way to lose, as any half-decent fan of the game knows. Plus, against a panicky captain like Smith, a fair amount of attacking cricket will preclude an over-abundance of close-in fielders in the later parts of the day.

2:17 a.m: I have to tell you, boys and girls, if this keeps up, I'm going to sleep at lunch. I've had a long day and this slow, torturous death isn't exactly helping me stay awake. This is Sachin crica 2005 (Bangalore) type stuff and there's only one way "vigils" like that end. On a related note, Malik is 3 off 38 and Misbah is 11 off 83.

2:25 a.m: Smith comes in and serves up a few long hops as Pakistan score 13 in the over. That's one less than the previous fourteen overs combined. Seven of those fourteen were maidens by the way.

2:28 a.m: Ian Bishop informs us that Inzi has been drafted into the squad for the second test and that he will retire after it. Zaheer Abbas, classy as ever, says "It'll be a good time to retire for him."

2:29 a.m: Amla into the attack. Why do I have a bad feeling about this? One minute before lunch, loosey goosey bowler on...don't do anything stupid, guys. Please.

2:30 a.m: Malik drives him through mid-on for four. 194 to go!!

2:31 a.m: Lunch it is. Five down. God that Younis dismissal hurt. I'm still thinking about it. Anyway, let's see how much longer I can stay up.

3.30 a.m: And we're back. By the way, the best way to fight sleep is watch Jon Stewart videos on comedycentral.com.

3:34 a.m: What a start. Misbah, you complete choot. For the record, he goes LBW to Nel right after lunch. In comes Kaneria's hero, Kamran Akmal.

3:36 a.m: Malik's giving instructions to Akmal. I wonder what he's saying. Probably something like, "Mohali yaad hai na? Bus wohi karna hai".

3:38 a.m: 50-odd overs to go. What if Akmal lashes a counter-attacking 134 off 123 balls to take us home? What if?

3:39 a.m: This Harris fellow isn't turning it. On a dusty-ass, turning, dry pitch on day 5, he's not turning it. Unbelievable.

3:44 a.m: You know, I make fun of Waqar a lot for his accent and his vocabulary and whatnot, but the guy knows his cricket. If you can look past the sheer incompetence as a commentator, he actually has some really valuable insights into fast bowling. He'd be a great bowling coach. The PCB should really think about hiring him. Oh, wait.

3:46 a.m: Akmal hits Harris through point for four and moves on to 9 off 4. Maybe he's taking my whole "134 off 123" thing seriously.

3:53 a.m: Akmal nicks Harris to Boucher who takes a catch that Akmal himself would have dropped. Ok, boys and girls, I'm going to sleep. Sorry for the incomplete report, but I'm sure you understand.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

John Mearsheimer On The Colbert Report

A bunch of us got together to watch John Mearsheimer, professor of Political Science here at U of C, talk about his and Stephen Walt's new book The Israel Lobby And U.S. Foreign Policy on Colbert. I think he did a pretty good job but would've preferred him being on Jon Stewart, who is actually capable of having a serious conversation with his guests. So much has already been said about this book and I while I have read the article version of it, published last year, I haven't gotten around to reading the book yet. When I do, I'll post my thoughts here. Meanwhile, here's JJM on Colbert:

Monday, October 01, 2007

How Would You Like To Download Music For Free? Legally, That Is

Radiohead have released their newest album In Rainbows on their website for free. Well, not technically free. They've released it such that you pay however much you want. Pay 13 cents or 400 dollars or nothing at all, it's up to you. No, really. Seeing as how Radiohead is one of my favorite bands, and seeing as how I always, always, paid full CD-prices for all of their albums (generally between 19 and 25 bucks), I will feel absolutely no guilt in paying nothing to them. Ok, maybe I'll feel a little guilt. I'll pop over $5. Which, according to the article, is about how much they would make off a single purchase for all their other work (bands apparently see about 30% from record sales - the rest goes to the record label, a problem Radiohead don't have any longer). Combined with the fact that Vedder's solo album is finally out, this is a good month for me music-wise.

Really Nerdy Joke Of The Day

ex and a constant were walking down the street. Suddenly, the constant notices a differential operator walking along the other side of the street. "Oh, no!" exclaims the constant. "I've got to run away! You've got to hide me! There's a differential operator... he could reduce me to nothing!" "Hmmmph," came the haughty reply. "I'm ex. He can't do anything to me." So ex walked across the street and introduced himself. "Hi. How are you doing? I am ex," he bragged. "Pleased to meet you," replied the differential operator. "I'm d/dy."

Heh. I miss Math. Anyway, here's a bunch of other mathy jokes.

Pakistan vs. South Africa

No time to do a full-blown preview, so here are a collection of random thoughts:



Taufeeq, With You Our Future Is Extremely Bleak
Now you know why I didn't become a rapper. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed should be our openers at least until 2023. They are the two best in Pakistan, though to be fair that's not saying much. Yasir has scored a ton of runs domestically, played really well against the touring Australia A side, and would give us a right-left combination to throw off the new ball bowlers' lines and lengths. Taufeeq has been tried and tested to pretty average results. The question to ask, however, is this: how pissed off can I be about our openers now that Imran The Terrible has been jettisoned? Answer: not much. Good riddance to really smelly, crappy, disease-infested, fly-attracting rubbish.



Dropping Pollock Is A Bunch Of Bollox
I quite like this rhyming thing. I think I'll stick to it for the rest of my post. Anyway, if this Morkel fellow gets fit, South Africa are about to make a huge mistake. If you haven't heard already, South Africa are "looking to the future" and are planning on dropping Pollock and playing the two young tearaways (Morkel and Steyn), that crazy nutjob Nel, and Ntini, with Kallis and Harris doing mop-up duty. This is stupid. Pollock has an unbelievable record against us, both in South Africa and Pakistan. More importantly, our batsmen, including the best of the best (Yousuf and Younis) cannot play his style of bowling. Even more importantly, he has a psychological strangehold on our batsmen going way back to 1997, when he won them a test (and as a consequence, the series) at Faisalabad. If SA want to play both Morkel and Steyn, they should drop Nel instead. Here's hoping Morkel gets fit and SA make a huge mistake. We're going to need them to make mistakes if we want to win this series.

Yousuf, For You The Dressing Room Will Be Quite Tough
Ok, imagine you're part of a new young team that did well in a multi-team tournament for the first time in about 15 years. You and your teammates are all around the same age (mostly 23-27) and are anjoying each other's company without the overbearing presence (and religiosity) of the previous regime. Moreover, some of those who chose to excuse themselves from the setup did so on the flimsiest of excuses (being dropped from an inconsequential tournament) and then threw their toys out of the pram and signed for a rebel league, in effect giving their country a big F-You. Unfortunately, your boss made a big show of needing one of the aforementioned toy-throwers really badly, and friggin' begged him to come back, when in fact the only begging that should have been done was by the toy-thrower, for being an immature penis with a delusional sense of self-entitlement. In essence, the spoilt kid got exactly what he wanted - a bunch of attention and some money. You were good, and were treated normally. He was bad, and was treated better than normally. How will this make you feel? I venture to suggest: not good. Throw in the fact that his close friends in the team (Inzi, Afridi, Razzaq), or fellow members of the ruling cabal, depending on who you believe, are out, and you can surmise that the dressing room is going to be a lonely place for Mohammad Yousuf. Which is probably fine with him, given he has God in his life and all.

Akmal, If You Continue Keeping Like You Have Done For The Last 16 Months, Kaneria Will Bash In Your Skull
Look, I like Kamran Akmal. I really do. I think he's a great guy, has a huge heart and genuinely wants to do well. I just think that the next six months are so unbelievably important to Pakistan cricket that we can't dick around with an Akmal that is continuing to fuck up. He should be given these two tests to recover form. If he doesn't, we should drop him for the SA one-days and try someone, anyone, else. Have you seen what this guy goes to Kaneria's confidence? How many stumpings and catches has he let go since June 2006? Seriously, how many? 25? 30? 50? I have no idea, though I suspect Kaneria does. His form is especially damaging to Kaneria because Dani really feeds off wickets - once he gets one, he gets jumpy, his run-up is more bubbly, he starts spinning it more, and most oddly, actually improves his line and length despite being pumped up. The next time Dani beats a batsman, and Akmal misses the stumping and yells out "Shaaba Dani, Shaaba" I guarantee you Dani's going to lose it. We could see the first cricketer-turned-murderer ever.
Oh, wait. I meant second cricketer-turned-murderer ever.

By The Time Asif And Gul Are Done With South Africa, They'll Want To Go Back(a)
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the best new-ball pairing in the world. You want pace? Check. Swing? Check. Seam? Check. Reverse swing? Check. Control? Check. Brains? Check. Attitude? Check. Heart? Check. Yorkers? Check. Bouncers? Check. Burgeoning desire to show world that Pakistan doesn't need an overrated, balding, assholic prick to play? Check and check. I'm so excited about these two, you have no idea. This will be the first time that the two will get to bowl with each other as we the fans have gotten to know them. Consider: while Asif was in the process of becoming the man (Dec 2005-May 2006), Gul was recovering from injury and still working himself back into top form. By the time Gul had worked himself into top form (Windies last year), Asif was caught up in, uh, controversies. By the time Asif was out of the woods with said controversies (SA earlier this year), Gul got injured again. If you don't know, please let me tell you: if fit, Asif and Gul are going to destroy - destroy - batting lineups all over the world for the next eight years. It begins now.

Lawson, Figure Out How To Get Kallis, And You Will Be Truly Awesome
Dani can't get Kallis. Gully can't get him either. Hell, even Asif said in an interview once that Kallis is an exceptionally difficult wicket for him to get, and he works out friggin' everyone. Here's the bottom line: how we bowl to Kallis (and how well he bats) will determine this series. If he makes a mountain of runs, SA have a chance. If he averages less than 50, we'll win 2-0. At the end of the day, it may not even matter how well we bowl. Maybe his state of mind will prove more important. Remember, he went all Pakistani-prima donna on the South African board after he was left out of the T20 World Cup. Is he still pissed off? What his is relationship with Graeme Smith? How will all this affect his play? We can only wait and see.

Six Bowlers Or Three, That Is The Key
South Africa are probably going to play six, count 'em six, bowlers: Morkel/Pollock, Ntini, Steyn, Kallis, Nel and Harris. Pakistan will, for all intents and purposes, play three (Rao, or Row as Waqar Younis calls him, is not an international test bowler). SA will have a long tail and if Asif and Gul can get early wickets (which they will), Dani on our pitches, against this team, will be too much to handle. So much so that I'm throwing caution to the wind and giving my first bullish prediction for Pakistan.

Two nil to us, people. Two nil to us.

Interesting Tidbits From The World Of Football

There's a really wide-ranging interview of Arsene Wenger in the Guardian, including this nugget:
Thierry was coming up to 30 years old [born 18 Aug, 1977]; he knew we were moving forward with a young team. He wasn't exactly sure of my plans about staying. He had come to a stage, where, as a forward he didn't have much time left. I understand that completely. He said to me: 'Coach, it's true we have a good team, it's also true we have a young team. It will become very strong, for sure, but me, I don't have the time to wait. Will it be strong next season, or the one after that? I don't know - but me, now, I've faced up to this decision.

And I said to him: 'But Thierry, I understand your problem completely. I think the team will be very strong, very soon but I understand why you ask the question.' So, he told me: 'I want to leave,' and that's why he left. With hindsight, it's true that David leaving had a bearing on Thierry's decision, made it easier in some way. Thierry's injuries also contributed to his leaving. He was less involved with the team and then, after a few games, you had to say, no, we are not going to win the league. The strength of a team depends on self-belief and once we were out of the title race, we lost our belief. I mean the belief the players have in themselves. Maybe, at a certain stage, Thierry thought the belief had gone.

There are also reports of discontent in the Chelsea camp with new manager Avram Grant, who apprently coaches as if it's 1977:

Grant, a former Israel national team coach, seems to have made little headway in attempts to quell resistance to his accession as Chelsea manager. Senior players continue to question his ability and qualifications to lead a team of Chelsea's calibre, while members of the coaching staff also harbour serious doubts.

Ahead of last Wednesday's League Cup victory at Hull, Terry elected to hold a team meeting in which he called on team-mates to rally behind the new manager. Terry's message was ill-received, however, with several players insisting Grant was not good enough to coach them. One respected international spoke with team-mates after Terry's words, complaining: 'Chelsea deserve a bigger coach than him. Grant does not have the quality to coach a team like this. When we play big opponents we will suffer because of him.'

There are many at the club who agree. Abramovich is understood to have received unfavourable reports on Grant's coaching methods from club staff, one of whom describes them as '25 years behind the times'. The Israeli has not helped his cause by using training drills that many players believe to be outdated when compared to the cutting-edge methods they had become accustomed to under Mourinho. According to a source, at least one member of Grant's coaching staff has told friends that he will consider leaving the club if there is no further change in management.

I suspect there is more to come out of this story. By the way, completely off topic, I'd just like everyone to know that Barcelona have won their last four games, including major wins against Sevilla and Lyon; have scored 13 goals in those four games; have La Liga's highest scorer (Messi, with five goals in as many games) and have seen their biggest new player (Henry) score a hat-trick. Oh, and Ronaldinho is supposed to be back this Tuesday against Stuttgart in the Champions League. I'd say it was time for him to put up or shut up.